Are Low Code Platforms the Answer to the IT Skills Shortage?

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Low code platforms allow almost anybody to create enterprise mobile applications, but skilled developers will still be required for enterprise apps.

The discussion around the tech talent shortage, including concerns around recruiting skilled technology talent, continues to be a top-of-mind issue for many organizations. In fact, one industry study found that 86 percent of respondents say they find it challenging to find and hire technical talent, with 75 percent of respondents reporting that the time it takes to fill technical positions has increased over the last three years.

At the same time, mobile apps have become an important part of enterprise application development across many sectors, from financial services to healthcare and beyond. The adoption of mobile is creating greater competition for recruiting skilled mobile app developers, and is helping to widen the talent gap. Considering the mobile imperative for many enterprises, not having the appropriate developer talent can impact a company’s ability to innovate and drive more business value through this growing channel.

Some enterprises have started using low code and citizen developers, partly in response to the shortage of tech talent. Advancements in Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD) technologies have made it easier for everyday employees, even those without coding backgrounds, to create mobile applications. These low code tools provide prepackaged templates, visual editors, and/or drag and drop components for users to create mobile apps more quickly and easily. As Forrester explains, “the market for mobile low-code development platforms is growing because more aspiring, semiprofessional, and professional developers use them to close the gap between demand for mobile apps and the talent available to create them.” With the growth in low code development platforms, it is necessary to examine whether low code can actually keep up in an enterprise environment and solve the IT skills gap.

Low code platforms can’t replace developers

While low code creates an environment where even those with no coding experience can create enterprise mobile applications, I believe it ultimately augments — rather than replaces — the need for skilled mobile app developers. Enterprises still have highly complex workflows and use cases that likely require skilled development, integration, security, and operational deployment expertise. Consider an eCommerce application for a bank or retail organization, one that needs to integrate more securely with sensitive customer, inventory, or other business data, as well has deliver a high performance UI/UX. It is highly unlikely that such apps could be created just using RMAD tools.

According to 451 Research, low code environments “can potentially shave 50-90% off development time vs. a coding language.” It can help overstretched developer resources spend less time coding on simple apps, and more time working on more challenging problems. Developers may find that RMAD tools can increase productivity on simpler projects and enterprises overall may see the burden on technical skills alleviated.

Beyond IT, low code can bring business into app development

One of the reasons that developers are creating mobile apps is to benefit the workflow of these customer-facing employees. According to a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, respondents that indicated their organization is a “pioneer” in its use of mobile technology scored 16 percent higher for productivity and 23 percent higher employee satisfaction. To see these positive results, a useful mobile application must be developed. This requires input from the business people who are going to be using the app, as they have a better understanding of their needs and the workflows that can be improved. Hence, it makes sense for them to be able to play a bigger role in the app design and development process, taking on some of the simpler tasks and relying on IT to help with the more complex aspects of app development.

The simplicity of low code development enables lines of business (LOB) to more easily participate in and understand mobile app development. Further, it can also enable LOB employees to more easily update and adapt their work processes to mobile without needing IT assistance, once again helping to alleviate demand on developers. Most importantly though, having business employees participate in the development process can lead to more business-focused mobile solutions that may yield better mobile ROI and adoption than pure IT-led mobility projects.

Low code may not be the answer to the IT skills shortage, but it can assist technical developers and IT staff, both by enabling time savings on the development process and by helping to bring business employees into the mobile development process. Highly skilled developers are still needed, but for those enterprises struggling to hire the right talent, low code gives them some opportunities to do more with less, which can benefit the bottom line.

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Clare Grant

About Clare Grant

Clare Grant, general manager of Red Hat Mobile, is responsible for Red Hat’s global business strategy for their leading mobile application platform. Her 20 years of experience has involved senior leadership positions in both fast growing pre-IPO companies and large corporations ( full bio).

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